Arrested Development

Somewhere post-baby number 2 in year number 3 of ’till death do us part, it occurred to me that I was perhaps a tad preoccupied with my offspring, to the detriment of my beloved spouse. Now I don’t mean that in a creepy, overly-involved-with-my-children-can’t-make-time-for-that-bum-who-contributed-half-their-DNA kinda way, but simply that I had become so consumed, physically, emotionally, and even spiritually, with the gargantuan task of keeping small humans alive, that I had only scraps to toss Daddy dearest’s way when he returned home in the evenings. (Now if that isn’t a PSA for wedded bliss, I don’t know what is.)

Now, it comes as a surprise to no one that family life, post-partum, is rough. The entire orbit of our little solar system becomes disrupted by a new little body in the mix, and as we scramble to find our new homeostasis, there is barely controlled chaos. For a while. But within the chaos, I began to catch glimpses of the new normal, and what I saw was not pretty. While my kids were growing and developing relatively on schedule, as many neurotic searches via Babycenter and numerous mommy blogs reassured me, my marriage wasn’t exactly flourishing.

Perhaps some real-life examples will serve to illustrate what I mean:

Scene one: 5:45 pm. Both kids screaming for dinner, which has not yet materialized. Begin frantic flurries of text messaging campaign for takeout. Forget our budget, or the very reasonable decision we both arrived at to spend x dollars per month on y. It was suddenly almost 6 pm, and somehow dinner had failed once again to plan and prepare itself, despite my being very handsomely clad in dirty yoga pants which had taken me to the supermarket that very morning.

Scene two: 9:20 pm. Both children are, temporarily, asleep in various locations throughout the house. The husband and I have 30 minutes of uninterrupted alone time. Naturally, I slide into bed … with my laptop. Time to mindlessly surf the internet!

Scene three: 4 am. Someone is screaming. It’s either me or it’s one of the children, but it’s too dark to tell for certain. I angrily hoist my tired, jiggly body out of bed and make my way to the source of the disruption, mentally railing against the injustice of it all, and silently cursing myself for telling my sweetheart to stay in bed and let me handle the midnight intruders, since he had to be at work the next day. “I never get to ‘escape’ to work,” I grumbled mentally, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a ‘break’ every day, to be in an office again.” I’d fume while nursing a demanding newborn in the semi-darkness of our bedroom, growing more and more resentful at the sound of light snoring coming from the other side of the bed.

Get the picture? I think the above drama perfectly encapsulates the first 6 months of life, post-partum, that is our little family’s existence, and it ain’t pretty. Somewhere along the bumpy ride, this time around, I began to realize those areas where I did, in fact, have more control than I had imagined, and wouldn’t you know it, when I stopped seeing myself as the victim of my circumstances, things began to change.

First, I saw concrete choices that I was making throughout the day that negatively impacted my relationship with Dave, namely, my absolutely empty reservoir of patience and resources when it came to him. I had been drawing it down to almost zero with the kids all day, and then snapping at the first hint of even minor adversity where he was concerned. He wanted a hot dinner after a day at the office? Instead of planning and throwing some simple ingredients in the crock pot in the morning, I frittered away minutes-turned-hours via Pinterest and Blogger during my moments of downtime during the day, and suddenly I had failed plans because I’d, you guessed it, failed to plan.

Second, I was not taking time to pray for patience and grace in my first and primary human relationship: my marriage. I threw occasional prayers heavenward for my kids, for their needs, for my ability to meet those needs…but I had stopped praying specifically for my husband and for our marriage. Surely God knows what I need in that arena, I must have rationalized…but when had I stopped speaking with Him about it? A few minutes of intentional, specific prayer for Dave and for our relationship during the day make a tremendous difference in how we relate to one another. Imagine that.

Finally, I had to learn to accept help. Both his and other people’s. When he offered to get up and give the baby a bottle in the night so I could get some extra sleep, I needed to say yes. Living martyrdom wasn’t looking good on me, particularly when I grumbled all the way to the Cross, if you will. And I wasn’t any kind of hero when I snapped and screamed at my kids during the day because I’d valiantly breastfed all the live long night and then woke up closer to dead than alive the next morning. When I took opportunities as they were presented to me, whether to have a shower while my kids played in the daycare at the gym, or to grab a nap or do my makeup while a friend watched the boys for an hour in the afternoon, I had SO much more to give to Dave when I saw him again. Amazing what a few more minutes of sleep (or a little mascara) will do for a marriage.

I pray that the next time the Lord blesses our family with a new member, I will remember this, and I will remember how badly things get out of alignment when I forget the primary player in the drama that is the vocation of married life: the spouse God entrusted to me.

Jenny Uebbing

By

Jenny Uebbing is the content editor of Heroic News, a web-based news service dedicated to life and cultural issues. She maintains a blog at mamaneedscoffee.blogspot.com, and writes frequently elsewhere on matters of bioethics, human sexuality, contraception, and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. A graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, she and her husband David reside in Rome, Italy with their young family.

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